The AL West could be the toughest division this year, and the MLB odds say the Oakland Athletics & Texas Rangers will be on the outside looking in. They meet Thursday afternoon in O-Town.
There are no gimmies in the AL West anymore. Even the Houston Astros will be a tougher get this year; according to the MLB odds on the futures market at Bovada, the Astros are tied with the Texas Rangers at 50-1 to win the World Series. A little further up the food chain, you’ll find the Oakland Athletics at 25-1, then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, USA at 14-1, and the Seattle Mariners at 12-1. That’s a whole ton of talent on the hoof.
The MLB betting odds might be against them, but the A’s and Rangers both have a real shot at winning the AL West, and every intra-division game counts – including Thursday’s late matinee (3:35 p.m. ET) at the Coliseum. Nick Martinez is scheduled to take the mound for Texas against Kendall Graveman, who will be making his first MLB start. Should be interesting. Oakland is a –145 favorite at press time.
Yu Can’t Touch This
The 2015 campaign has already gotten off to a rocky start for the Rangers. They opened at 25-1 to win the World Series, but ace pitcher Yu Darvish will miss the entire season after having Tommy John surgery. That’ll knock the Texas rotation down a peg or two. With Darvish out of commission, northpaw Nick Martinez (4.94 FIP last year) sneaks back into the mix as the No. 5 starter despite his poor 2014. Martinez dropped 4.48 units last year on a team record of 8-16.
Too bad about the pitching, because Texas is expected to improve this year at nearly every position on the field – especially at first base, where Prince Fielder (.720 OPS) is looking to bounce back after undergoing neck surgery just 42 games into the season. The departure of famously old-school manager Ron Washington and the arrival of Jeff Banister should also help Texas squeeze out a few extra wins here and there.
Blue Lawrie Green Lawrie
You may remember Washington as Oakland’s third-base coach during the early Moneyball years. Billy Beane is still doing the best he can on a shoestring budget; the A’s are No. 25 in team payroll this year at $86 million, considerably less than the $143 million the Rangers (No. 8 overall) are shelling out. That parsimony is expected to cost Oakland 3.0 WAR among its position players, despite the addition of 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (.749 OPS for Tampa Bay last year).
The bigger offseason deal everyone’s concerned about is the one that sent 3B Josh Donaldson (.798 OPS) to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Brett Lawrie (.722 OPS) and three prospects, including the aforementioned Graveman. It’s a downgrade at third base, especially given Lawrie’s injury profile, but he’s healthy for now and could be a valuable contributor for the A’s this year.
As for Graveman, he wasn’t the most heralded prospect of the three Oakland landed for Donaldson – that would be INF Franklin Barreto, who’s still in the minors for now. But Graveman looked very good this spring, allowing just one run in 21.1 innings pitched in the Cactus League. What’s that? You need a pitching prospect for your fantasy team? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
As we go to press, Graveman is only 19% owned at Yahoo, and while we have yet to see him throw more “real” MLB ball than the 4.2 innings of relief he gave Toronto last year, the 6-foot-2 righty has already shown a nice two-seam fastball that generates plenty of those worm-burners that analytics-minded people love. If he can make it through five innings of work against Texas before running out of gas, Graveman has a very good chance at earning the W against Martinez and the Rangers. Add Oakland to your MLB picks this Thursday.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Athletics